Bright House Field in Clearwater is the Spring Training home of the Philadelphia Phillies, as well as housing the Phils' Florida State League affiliate, the Clearwater Threshers. In 2014, it also played host to the American Athletic Conference Tournament.
It’s important for Florida ballparks to find multiple uses to fill out their calendar. There’s a bit of an over saturation in the area, with all the big league camps in the area (Clearwater, Tampa, Bradenton, Orlando and Dunedin are all within a short drive of each other). By the time the FSL season gets started, the crowds have a bit of a time adjusting and getting into a rhythm of cheering on the home teams, and getting to know the players just starting out in their careers.
Bright House Field is just over ten years old, and really is holding up well. The interior dimensions are designed to match the big club in Philadelphia, all the way down to the two-tier bullpens in the left field pavilion. As part of the larger Spring Training complex, even a mid-week game has a light relaxed feeling, as there’s plenty of space to move around.
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The concessions team tries to bring a little bit of Philly to the Gulf Coast, but unfortunately it's a bit of a miss. The cheesesteaks are disappointing, as they are prepacked, and lack the proper mixture of peppers, onions, cheese, steak and attitude. The pretzels from a specialty stand, where they are freshly grilled, are decent, but the ones shaped like a "P" that they serve at the concessions stands are stale and too bready.
Near the team store, there's a Beers of the World stand, which offers an outstanding selection of canned and draft beers with roughly 100 choices available on any given day. Thirsty Thursday promotions reduce beer prices to two-for-one, but even standard pricing is quite reasonable.
Even regular season games carry that laid-back spring training vibe. It's easy to just relax, and take a stroll around the outfield concourse, gaze over the practice fields and imagine that they're all filled with young hopefuls working on PFP (pitcher's fielding practice) or getting in some extra reps. You can watch the pitchers warm up in the two-tiered bullpen from the tiki bar in the left field corner, and let your kids run wild on the grassy berms from left-center to right.
The park is too big for regular season games. Capacity is around 8,500, primarily for the spring training crowd, but they average under 3,000 a night for the Florida State League season, so there's no need to sit on top of one another. Even on a night with an MLB star in town, the fans don't push their way forward. All in all, it makes for a relaxing night at the ballpark.
There's really not much unique to Clearwater in the immediate area, but within a half-hour, almost anything imaginable is at your fingertips. Bright House Field is a great evening escape from the traffic and crowds of the beaches, and the space is more oasis than outpost.
There are hotels and restaurants immediately to the south, and some light industrial and the airport to the east, but most of your options are a few miles due west, as you approach Clearwater Beach and the Gulf of Mexico.
Part of the problem of the larger park is that it's easy to be too isolated from your fellow fans. You don't have to hear anyone you don't want to. On this night, there were very few patrons near the home dugouts, and those who were in attendance didn't know how to pronounce Hamels.
Regardless, there's a love for this team from the diehards. As the longest running major/minor affiliation in the Florida State League, Clearwater identifies strongly with the Phillies, even though the big league Rays are only a half-hour away.
Bright House Field is easily accessible by car from all directions, and there's ample affordable parking all around the park. Once inside, the concourses are wide, and the aisles throughout the seating bowl are comfortable and not cramped. The 360-degree walkway around the park lets you get a great view from all angles.
The Florida State League is still quite the bargain, even compared with other minor leagues. Because the parks are designed to handle the large crowds and major league egos of Spring Training, you get upgraded facilities and amenities, commensurate with the Spring Training crowd.
In season, you reap the benefit of all these upgrades, with a crowd one-half to one-third the size you'd find in March. Thirsty Thursday pricing makes the drinks a bargain, and great seats can be had for under $15. Food and other concessions are also reasonably priced.
The park is set beautifully, and the palm trees that ring the outfield really give it an oasis like feeling. The Team Store has an amazingly broad selection of items,considering the average attendance.
It's hard to have a bad night at a ballpark along the Gulf Coast.. unless it rains, which it does quite often. Thankfully, the Threshers have plenty of covered space for patrons to find shelter, without being crowded. Fortunately storms usually pass fairly quickly, and the staff will work hard to get the game going again.
Clearwater, Florida, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, are cities that are about as different as apples and oranges, cats and dogs, and the 1969 and 2010 New York Mets. One is a relatively new, laid-back beach community that likes to stay out of the spotlight (especially when the Scientologists came to town), and the other is the epicenter of the United States seeking positive attention. Despite having given birth to this nation, and close enough to the current seat of power to exert great pressure and influence, Philadelphia always seems to remain in the shadow of the waterside port 90 miles to the northeast formerly known as New Amsterdam.
Yet, the two cities have been undeniably linked for over 60 years, thanks to retirees from the north settling here, and the Philadelphia Phillies. Back in 1947, the Phillies settled on a spring training location after bouncing around from stadium-to-stadium in Florida (including tenures at McKechnie Field in Bradenton and the predecessor to Al Lang Stadium, Coffee Pot Park, in St. Petersburg), and they have stayed in Clearwater ever since, thus making it the longest same "one team, one city" relationship in spring training.
This has also built one of the longest affiliations to the same Minor League Baseball team, with the Clearwater Threshers (originally called the Phillies, too, until 2004) having been formed in 1985 at the Phillies' request. Prior to 2004, both Phillies teams played at Jack Russell Memorial Stadium just north of downtown Clearwater. Then, the parent club built a new spring training facility closer to Tampa Bay along the main route to Clearwater Beach, and the now-Threshers followed along. The dimensions of the new park are exactly the same as Citizens Bank Park, as they are fraternal twins, both opened the same season, along with the tiered-bullpen setup in left and outfield wall heights.
Food & beverages can't be beat especially if you go on a promo night such as Thirsty Thursday or all you can eat Monday. Fans are very knowledgeable and for the most part seem to be Philly-area transplants. Love the Tiki bar. At the same time the park is very kid-friendly with inflatables, a playground & picnic area. As for access, avoid US 19. Take Rt. 60 to Old Coachman or McMullen-Booth to Drew St.
Food & Beverage-best to go on a weeknight when they're running a promo. I went on Thirsty Thursday & paid $12.50 for 2 beers and a cheesesteak. Excellent fans-seems to be heavily populated with Philly-area transplants. Not much neighborhood-it's off a highway with a bunch of big box stores in the area although Buffalo Wild Wings is in the parking lot and Tilted Kilt is across the street. Access-avoid Rt. 19 if at all possible b/c of road construction & heavy traffic. Take Rt. 60 to Old Coachman or McMullen-Booth to Drew. Tiki bar is awesome. Park is also very kid-friendly with the berm, playground & inflatables.
Located in central Clearwater, Bright House Field is the spring home of the Philadelphia Phillies, who are only too happy to remind you of their 2008 World Series championship, as you can see below. Naming rights were bought by a local cable entity who thoughtfully provides wi-fi throughout the park, although visitors need to signup first to enjoy 30 minutes of complimentary access.
Parking is off Old Coachman Road and is $2. In front of the stadium you will see a fountain with a sculpture of Steve Carlton.
Up the stairs are the main ticket windows where you have a few choices: $9.50 for the premium box seats, $7 for the rest of the seating area, or $5 for the berm. As usual, you can get the cheapest and pretty much sit where you want although there are ushers you will check your tickets in the premium area.
You can walk around the entire concourse, in fact, they state that 3 laps is a mile and you should exercise during the game. The berm area is a nice place to relax with a blanket and a few families were enjoying their time there. But you are far away from the action and I'd probably end up falling asleep out there.
Another interesting option is Frenchy's Tiki Pavilion above left field. This is a huge bar and seating area which attracts young adults looking to have a few drinks while watching the game. I attended on Thirsty Thursday when all drinks are 2-for-1, and Frenchy's was packed during the game.
For those who prefer typical ballpark fare, there are a couple of concession stands serving the usual. One is called the Bullpen Grille as it is located out behind the bullpens (which are situated on two levels as at Citizens Bank Park), the other is behind home plate but called the Home Run Grille. However, I would recommend the small cart selling Cuban sandwiches for $6.75. These were huge and far more satisfying than anything else I have had on the trip so far.
As is the case in most of these FSL ballparks, there are no bells and whistles. Concourses are wide as there are far more fans during the spring, and seats are plentiful. There was a small kids area in the left field corner but that was about the only thing remotely out of the ordinary.
I really enjoyed the atmosphere here. Fans were spread out throughout the park, but they still made plenty of noise when the Threshers were at bat. There were also a good number of visiting supporters, not surprising given that the Tampa Yankees play just across the bay. Chase Utley was rehabbing as well, adding to the excitement.
If traveling to a game here, there are three hotels within walking distance of the stadium: LaQuinta, Hampton Inn, and Travelodge. I stayed at the LaQuinta and it was just fine.
If you are visiting Clearwater for more than baseball, do check out the 'Winter Adventure' and other events at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.
At the game, I found the concourses wide and easy to walk around. Three times around is a mile.
The Threshers/Phillies have a fantastic souvenir shop. All kinds of things: toasters, banners, socks, drink glasses, shirts and other clothing attire, and much more. It's located on the third base side.
There are many food and beer choices as you meander the concourse so check them all out before you purchase.
Visiting a Threshers game is well worth the trip.
The only downfall during my visit was the noise and advertisements emitted over the sound system between the pitches and at bats.
After hearing how some of the Florida State Leagues just lacked that Minor League feel to it and even being at the one at Tampa, I was slightly skeptical of going to Bright House Field. I was glad I was wrong. You do get a great atmosphere at the park, and from what I've gathered, it is also the best park out of the Florida State Leagues.
Everything was almost perfect, from ticket prices to food, and to seats. If you are going to try to go to a ballpark in Florida, this is your best bet.
FOOD/BEVERAGE: Wide variety. Given the Threshers affiliate with Philadelphia, you have a Philly feel to it, which means, yes, you get cheesesteaks. But you also have a tiki bar out in left field and there is something on the menu for everybody. The cheesesteak was pretty good (it said it was from a Philadelphia company), and the hot dogs were all right.
ATMOSPHERE: Yeah, it was a Spring Training facility first & foremost, but you still had that Minor League feel when you went in to the park. It was nice and refreshing compared to Tampa.
NEIGHBORHOOD: Clearwater is really a suburb of Tampa, albeit a large one. Everything is fine in the area, though the local eats you have to drive for and most of it is commercial. You're kind of off in an industrious area at the park.
FANS: Friendly, great, and knowldgeable about the Threshers and the Phillies.
ACCESS: Easy to get to, though it is off a major highway. It didn't seem to have traffic issues when I went. It was a little congested after the game, but most places are.
ROI: Ticket prices behind home plate are $9 which is a good deal these days. Prices for food & souvenirs are decent and you are getting quality for this place.
EXTRAS: This is probably my favorite Minor League park to visit so I could have it at 5++++ but the structure is beautiful and it screams Florida for you. The people there are very friendly and helpful. The grounds crew would take fielding practice balls and give them to the fans (my family included). The dimensions of the park are a replica of Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park and the sightlines are amazing.
2820 Gulf to Bay Blvd
Clearwater, FL 33759
2800 Gulf to Bay Blvd
Clearwater, FL 33759
2640 Gulf to Bay Blvd
Clearwater, FL 33759
21220 US 19 N
Clearwater, FL 33765
24546 US 19 N
Clearwater, FL 33763
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